Pamela from the “resort” (perhaps I should dispel any notions of fancy luxury resort right here. The “resort” was rugged to say the least. Dusty, bare-bones housing and gritty, shared showers with water that didn’t always run hot and threadbare towels and wild creatures, including rats and HUGE armies of ants, roaming through the rooms. Not that I knew any of that at that moment and maybe you’ve lost the thread of that sentence so I’ll start it over). Pamela from the “resort” approaches me, at baggage claim, saying, “You must be Gail.” And I’m blown away that she knows me, thinking, she must be psychic, thinking, everyone here is psychic. I have entered a psychic universe…. then I remember we had to send in color photos and I’m pretty sure the thinking she’s psychic thought is the result of SEVERE sleep deprivation (thanks to the meth addict guy who slurped diet cokes in my ear during the flight when I should have slept). But, I’m not too worried about this state of psychotic exhaustion, nor the fact that I haven’t eaten since Denver, where I had about five minutes to grab a mostly inedible salad, because I can’t wait to get to the “resort” so I can settle into my room and unpack and shower and eat something (the “resort” must have a restaurant) before I climb into bed and get a good night’s sleep before starting bootcamp the next day…
As this getting-settled-in vision spins through my head, Pamela ushers me to the van, tells me that I’m the last camper to arrive and she hopes I ate something on the plane (which of course I didn’t!) and we’re going to have to hurry because Baron wants everyone to report to The Blue Room (the yoga room lined in plastic and heated to 90 degrees where I will spend most of my week) with our yoga mats ready to practice as soon as I arrive. I’m thinking this can’t be true. We can’t. I can’t practice yoga in this physical state. But I realize (and this is just the first of MANY times this will occur to me) that this is not a request. This is a command. This is not about what I want. I have signed up for bootcamp (again, how did I miss the words BOOTCAMP when I sent in my application??) and that means I’m at their militaristic mercy and right now their mercy means I WILL practice yoga tonight.
Pamela and I ride the coast in small talk, mostly about how Pamela didn’t really mean to be a driver, and she still hasn’t figured out what to do with her life. She’s a vegan although she likes honey. She practices Tai Chi. Grew up in New Orleans. Apropos of nothing, she tells me that the pool is clothing optional.
As soon the van pulls up to the door to my room, I jump out, race up the rickety stairs, toss my oversized duffle bag into my room, unzip it, hurriedly rooting through, flinging underwear and bras and AAA batteries for my alarm clock into the air as I locate my mat and block and strap and water bottle and a pair of shorts and a tank top. Then I rip off my jeans and long-sleeved shirt and yank on my yoga clothes and brush my teeth and whip my hair up into a knotty pony tail and jog the ¼ mile down the black lava strewn path to The Blue Room already sweating before I step into the heated bubble.
Inside, I find fitter, hipper, not already sweaty people sitting in neat rows of chairs at the front of the room. They’re all so beautiful and camera ready and eager and I think maybe I’ve actually stumbled onto a Yoga magazine photo shoot. I edge into the only empty seat, next to a woman layered in make-up over skin as smooth and plastic as a mannequins, her preternaturally big-boobed, thin-waisted body encased in a Hawaiian inspired bra-like top and matching booty shorts, her long dyed blond hair straight out of a Pantene commercial, her red-painted, flower-appliquéd toenails resting in jewel-encrusted flip flops. I stare at her toes, at my unpainted ones, my eyes slowly inching up my mismatched outfit (my friend’s blue cycling shorts and my red and brown running tank top) and think, this shouldn’t matter. This is yoga. This isn’t about appearances. This is about breathing. Breath. Fusion with a higher life-force. The connection of heaven and earth. Humanity. Compassion. Freedom. And yet, I look around and see that I’m wrong. And I’m WAY out of my league.
To the beat of hip music (so hip I’m not really familiar with it other than the fact that I can tell it’s hip), Baron Baptiste saunters in like a rock star, wearing his signature bandana and surfer type shorts, tan and cocky, looking as if he’s just stepped off a sailboat. He laces his opening remarks with lots of California-speak: Like. Dude. For real. Brother from another mother. You’re going into story. Show up for yourself. Inauthentic. Take off your mask. I feel you. I don’t feel you. Empty your cup. Be open. These words and phrases will serve as mantras in the days to come. Will be used to break people’s “inauthenticity” (only sometimes he says, “UNauthenticity” and I’m like, Dude, if you’re going to use the word repeatedly, don’t mispronounce it) and bring many people to tears. But tonight he’s telling us how important it is for us to show up 150% every moment. That’s what “showing up for yourself,” means. I guess. He’s telling us we will be expected to give all of ourselves on every level. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Get up in front of the group and “share.” I’m not sure what this sharing thing is. Yet. But I’ll soon find out that (for me) it’s even harder than the hours of tortuous yoga we begin as soon as Baron says, “Let’s meet on our mats in downward facing dog.” And I’m wondering if anyone would notice if I escaped…
To be continued the week after next (since next week is the debut of Lisa’s FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME! which I am absolutely LOVING!)… including what Reality TV show one of my fellow yogis was on and how they kept warning us to stay hydrated but didn’t want us to “interrupt” sharing or practice time going to the bathroom and all about Matt the Messiah in the Speedo.
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